Course overview

This Day School by guest speaker Mike Grundy describes the Early Renaissance in Italy, which saw the astonishing flowering of art, architecture and literature in Florence that lasted from the 13th to the 15th century and beyond. Students will learn how this explosion of high culture was made possible by the increasing wealth of Florence in the period from trade and finance and by the focus of the leading individuals of the city on Humanist thinking. This movement developed alongside the prevailing dominance in the arts of religious thinking and subject matter, but allowed more importance to be given to Man, his stories, works, tragedies and achievements.

Course description

In the words of National Geographic, Florence is “A city-size monument to the Renaissance”, and the Florentine Renaissance was described as “The richest cultural flowering the world has known”. The course seeks to analyse and justify these amazing claims. It starts by studying the Humanist movement in ancient Rome, which reached its peak in the 1st century BCE with the beliefs, rhetoric and writings of Cicero. The re-discovery of Humanist works such as these once the Dark Ages had passed provided the spark for the Early Renaissance in Italy. In the Florence of the Middle Ages, the most powerful families such as the Medici used their wealth for research, study and sponsorship, nurturing the talent and technique of aspiring young students so that they could apply Humanist principles to the development of art, architecture and science. Their output was vast and ground-breaking, addressing both religious and Humanist ideals and experience. The course reviews the contributions to the Florentine Renaissance in art from such as Donatello, Botticelli, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, in architecture from Brunelleschi and in literature from Dante, Petrarch and Machiavelli. Much of their output survives today, and provides the core of the material to be studied in the course.

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